It’s a big week for the cast of “Over the Tavern”…we will be moving out of the comfort of our crowded rehearsal room and onto the stage. The set is being built and costumes are being created. I even bought an “old school” bottle of setting lotion in order to work on my 1950’s era coif. Everything is going along swimmingly and we are right where we should be in terms of the schedule.
About Sunday or so, I started feeling a familiar sensation…pure panic. I couldn’t remember my lines at rehearsal last night…lines that I had no problem remembering earlier that afternoon. I was frustrated. I was angry. I didn’t want to quit, but I certainly wanted to walk away.
I had to think long and hard about what was going on in my head. (Really, what choice did I have? I couldn’t go on like that for another rehearsal, that’s for sure.) It was as though I had run full force into a wall of panic.
And then, as I was drying my hair this morning, I had a huge realization. The Panic Wall and I are familiar adversaries.
If you are not familiar with the Panic Wall, let me explain. It is a common occurrence in my world. As a perfectionist and an over-achiever (a dangerous combination), the Panic Wall rears its ugly head the moment things become difficult for me and I begin to fear that I might not meet my own ridiculously high expectations. And, it is able to camouflage itself because it appears in different sizes depending on what task lies ahead. In addition, its size increases exponentially as the opportunity for very public failure also increases.
Can you imagine what the wall is looking like for me right now?
What made this realization so earth-shattering for me is that I recognized how often I come up against the Panic Wall. It could loom tall in front of me before a presentation, while I am writing an important grant proposal or fundraising letter, or in the midst of the process of trying to figure out where to send my children to Kindergarten. Or, it could be the sneaky little speed bump the makes it impossible for me to decide what will be the perfect thing to wear for a big event or which color yellow to paint the laundry room.
As I see it, there are three strategies for dealing the Panic Wall:
1. Avoidance and retreat (a.k.a., “just quit”). This is not an option in this case, nor do I want it to be an option…this show is something I really want to be a part of. But, it might explain why I don’t play the guitar.
2. Taking a break. This is a very useful technique as it can give a person the time needed to gain the perspective necessary to come back at the wall with a clear head. However, one must be very careful in employing this method because it can quickly lead to the non-strategy known as “procrastination.”
3. Getting to the other side. Now, in my vast experience, there are two ways of getting to the other side of the Panic Wall. Going directly through the wall is not impossible (believe me…I’ve busted straight through more than a few walls in my day), but you need a lot of firepower, in addition to blood, sweat, and tears…and you never know what the collateral damage might be. The less dangerous approach would be to relax, remain calm, get determined, and systematically climb the wall until you reach the top.
Did you see the light bulb?
This may sound like common sense to anyone still reading (or to anyone who knows me), but it was a major "a-ha moment" for me…not just in terms of being successful in this production but also in terms of being successful in the rest of my life. Pretty big stuff, huh?
So, I am going to continue to breathe. I am going to relax. I am going to trust the process. And, most importantly, I am going to begin to climb.
Now, where’s a grappling hook when you need one?